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At natural foods markets, you can also find date sugar, a sweet powder made of ground dried dates. Unlike other types of sugar, it does not dissolve. Date sugar is particularly good in cookies, pancakes and cinnamon rolls.

Substituting these sugars for ordinary white table sugar can lead to interesting new versions of your favorite desserts. Brown sugars make desserts darker. With chocolate cakes, I find this can be advantageous.

Some forms of brown sugar are moister than white sugar. When you substitute them, you should slightly reduce the liquid amount in the recipe. So with delicate desserts such as sponge cake, start with just a small proportion of a different sugar, taste and see if you would like to add more the next time you make it.

Sugar also comes in liquid form. In addition to the familiar corn syrup, maple syrup, honey and molasses, at natural foods stores you can find brown rice syrup and barley malt. Middle Eastern markets carry additional liquid sweeteners, such as date syrup, carob syrup and grape molasses. When using them in desserts, subtract an equivalent amount of liquid from the recipe.

A few more sugar facts:

m In recipes, plain white table sugar is often referred to as granulated sugar.

m Superfine sugar is finer than granulated; a close British form is called caster sugar.

m Confectioners’ sugar, also called powdered or icing sugar, has been pulverized until very fine. Usually it is mixed with a little cornstarch to prevent caking.

m Coarse or pearl sugar is used for garnish. Sometimes it is sprinkled over pastries before they are put in the oven because it retains a crunchy texture during baking.

m Store brown sugar in a cool area in a covered container.

m Measure brown sugar by firmly packing it into a measuring cup.

m If brown sugar becomes too hard, you can soften it in the microwave. Put about 1 cup brown sugar in a covered container and microwave for 20 or 30 seconds. Check, and if it’s still hard, microwave again, just until it’s soft enough to use but not until it melts. Caution: At this point, the sugar will be very hot. Microwave only the amount you need, since leftovers will harden.

Golden pine nut chocolate chip bars

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

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